Rothamsted Research

where knowledge grows

Pupils take on farming challenge

Teams of school pupils pitch their ideas to reduce slug damage to crops after meeting scientists at Rothamsted Research and visiting a local farm.

As the new school year begins, 17 of the pupils returning to Sir John Lawes School in Harpenden may have an extra boost, having taken part in a leadership project designed to develop their confidence, teamwork and presentation skills.

Institute Director receives Honorary Doctorate from University of Hertfordshire

Professor Achim Dobermann, Director and CEO of Rothamsted Research, honoured in ceremony at St Albans Cathedral.

The University of Hertfordshire has awarded Professor Achim Doberman with an Honorary Doctorate of Science for his contributions to food security and sustainability. The award was presented on Friday 9th September. Professor Dobermann is an internationally recognised authority on science and technology for food security and sustainable management of cereal crops, having authored or co-authored over 250 scientific papers and several books. He is a Fellow of the American Society of Agronomy and a Fellow of the Soil Science Society of America.

Rothamsted Research launches Annual Review

The latest Annual Review showcases highlights from a busy year spent delivering excellent science, establishing collaborations and re-defining our long-term vision and strategic priorities.

The Annual Review 2015/2016 was launched today, celebrating some of the research highlights and accomplishments of staff at Rothamsted Research over the past year. The printed Annual Review is accompanied by a digital version and video available on the Rothamsted Research website.

Seek and you shall find: bees remain excellent searchers even when sick

Scientists have found that honeybees exhibit a characteristic flight pattern to explore their surroundings, even when affected by disease.

Honeybees learn the position of landmarks around their hive as they explore, which helps them find their way to rewarding flower patches and home again. When they first venture outside the hive, or when a beekeeper moves them to a new location, honeybees perform ‘orientation flights’ to explore and to identify landmarks efficiently.

Better off alone: biodiversity among soil microbes can be bad news for crops

Wheat suffers yield losses in soils with high bacterial diversity.

A recent study found that decreased biodiversity of Pseudomonas, a genus of soil bacteria, is associated with a reduced severity of the fungal disease ‘take-all’ in second year wheat. The work revealed that disease incidence was linked to the wheat variety grown in the first year, and that this also had a profound effect on Pseudomonas species community structure. Now researchers have found that the useful activity of Pseudomonas strains that suppress take-all disease is severely reduced when additional Pseudomonas strains are present.

Twenty years of monitoring in the UK reveals trend for wetter summers, less acidic soils and increasing plant biodiversity

The UK Environmental Change Network, of which Rothamsted Research is a founding member, releases a special issue of the journal Ecological Indicators to mark the milestone.

The UK Environmental Change Network (ECN) recently marked the first 20 years of monitoring at its terrestrial sites. The ECN was launched in 1992 to monitor UK environmental change over time, following growing concerns about biodiversity loss, climate change and widespread air and water pollution. Since then, it has recorded data continuously, at a range of terrestrial and freshwater sites, on environmental and ecological parameters.

Researcher gets on soapbox to explain blackgrass threat

Taking part in a recent 'Soapbox Science' event, Laura Crook from the Weed Ecology group at Rothamsted Research talks with the public about work on herbicide resistant blackgrass.

Soapbox Science is a platform for promoting women and the science that they do. From the Weed Ecology group at Rothamsted Research, technician Laura Crook took part in an event at Milton Keynes shopping centre.

Major pathogen of barley decoded: new avenues for control

The fungus that causes Ramularia leaf spot in barley is the latest organism to have its genome sequenced and investigated.

Since the late 1990s, UK farmers growing barley have seen the yields and quality of their harvests hurt by an emerging disease called Ramularia leaf spot. The disease is caused by the pathogenic fungus Ramularia collo-cygni. Now a team of scientists studying this fungus have sequenced and explored its genome.

The best defence: developing aphid-resistant wheat for smallholder farmers in southern Africa

A partnership between wheat scientists at Rothamsted Research and Seed Co Ltd, Africa’s largest seed company, is attempting to breed wheat resistant to two aphid species.

Smallholder farmers growing wheat crops in southern Africa face losing up to half of their wheat yields to aphids. Pesticides that could prevent such attacks are often too expensive, but scientists are screening wheat lines to look for a new, cheaper way to protect African wheat from aphids. The scientists hope to identify resistance to two major aphid pests and breed the trait into wheat suitable for African climates.

Radar tracking reveals the ‘life stories’ of bumble bees

Scientists have tracked the flight paths of bumble bees throughout their entire lives to find out how they explore their environment and search for food.

Scientists have tracked the flight paths of a group of bumble bees throughout their entire lives in what is thought to be the first lifetime tracking study of any animal in such detail. The new study used a radar to show how individual bees explore their environment and search for food. The findings showed that individual bumble bees differ greatly in the way they fly around the landscape when foraging for nectar and pollen.

'We need an evidence-based strategy for agricultural innovation to protect our harvests'

Prof. Toby Bruce describes current crop protection challenges and the CROPROTECT network he has developed.

UK farmers are currently facing a huge problem which undermines the viability of their businesses and their economic competitiveness: the pests, weeds and diseases that attack their crops are becoming pesticide-resistant. Our farmers don’t have enough tools in the toolkit to stop their harvests from being destroyed. Developing sustainable crop protection was already a major issue for the industry, but now with uncertainties regarding farm incomes after Brexit it is all the more critical.

Inside knowledge - how do bacteria living within wheat plants affect their hosts?

Scientists at Rothamsted Research develop technique to study the effects of beneficial bacteria that live inside wheat plants.

Most plants have harmless bacteria living inside their tissues, known as ‘endophytes’, which can benefit plants by providing nutrients and suppressing diseases.  Scientists have developed a new technique to grow wheat plants without any endophytes, allowing them to introduce different bacterial species into them, which will reveal more about this interaction. The researchers hope that the method could give insights enabling the production of cereal plants with increased yields.

Rothamsted Research comment on the result of the EU referendum

Rothamsted Research, established in 1843, has been delivering knowledge and innovation that benefit agriculture globally. The international impact of Rothamsted Research is the result of the cumulative efforts of an international community of scientists and institute employees.  Almost a quarter of staff members, visiting workers and PhD students currently come from European Union countries.

Rothamsted Research North Wyke will be at the Livestock Event 2016

Find out about the cutting edge North Wyke Farm Platform facility and discuss the latest findings with scientists from Rothamsted Research.

Scientists from Rothamsted Research North Wyke are exhibiting this year at the Livestock Event on 6-7th July at the Birmingham NEC. The North Wyke stand, FF364, in the Field Forage exhibition is entitled “How the North Wyke Farm Platform is identifying sustainable solutions for grassland livestock production”.

‘Illuminating Life: Personal Encounters’ photo-story competition begins

Rothamsted Research launches contest for children and young adults, on the theme of agricultural landscapes and practices.

Rothamsted Research is supporting and encouraging the engagement of children and young adults with agriculture. To this end, Rothamsted Research is delighted to announce that the ‘Illuminating Life: Personal Encounters’ photo-story competition is back for its second year. Rothamsted Research has been advancing agriculture by providing scientific knowledge and innovation for over 170 years, and has selected agricultural landscapes and practices as the theme of this year’s contest.

Exceptionally high numbers of diamondback moths are arriving in the UK

This is a special announcement regarding the diamondback moth and covers observations up until the 10th June 2016. Diamondback moths are an important migratory pest of brassicas, causing feeding and cosmetic damage that can lead to severe losses in cruciferous crops. The diamondback moth (Plutella xylostella) is a species often described a 'super-pest' because they have been found to be resistant to most insecticides, including pyrethroids and diamide.

How do soil bacteria affect agriculture and global climate?

Newly sequenced genomes of soil bacteria in the group Bradyrhizobium help researchers to understand its effects beyond soil.

Soils are teeming with bacteria whose effects we are just beginning to understand. One of the most abundant and active groups of bacteria in soils is called Bradyrhizobium. For the first time from European soils, scientists have sequenced the genome of Bradyrhizobium, giving a glimpse into their activity and revealing differences with strains from other parts of the world.

New research programme set to explore the secrets of profitable crop rotations

Rothamsted Research is one of four major partners involved in new projects aiming to improve crop rotations economically and environmentally.

Looking beyond the factors affecting crop performance within a season, an ambitious new research programme aims to uncover the features of successful crop rotations. To deliver the programme, Rothamsted Research will work in partnership with NIAB CUF, Lancaster University and the James Hutton Institute, along with 14 other organisations from across the agricultural and horticultural industries. The Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB), which commissioned the research, has awarded £1.2m in funding to address challenges in soil and water management across whole rotations.

On the surface: genes identified that give wheat and barley their matte appearance

Researchers find cluster of genes responsible for the matte, bluish-grey colour of cultivated wheat and barley.

In young plants, you can sometimes distinguish cultivated wheat varieties from wild species by their colour. Wild wheat appears either glossy green or a matte bluish-grey, but cultivated varieties are almost always the latter. The bluish-grey colour comes from a waxy film thought to increase yields and protect the plant from environmental stress, particularly drought and diseases. The genes that produce the coating have long eluded researchers, but work by an international team has now revealed them.

'UK soils need protecting and restoring'—Prof. Steve McGrath comments on Parliament Soil Health Report

Professor Steve McGrath, Head of Sustainable Soils and Grassland Systems Department at Rothamsted Research responds to the Environmental Audit Committee's new report.

One of the benefits of the UN’s declaration of 2015 as the International Year of Soils was that the UK Parliament took notice of what is now called “Soil Health”. According to the just-released House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee first report, soil health is multi-faceted, depending on a range of biological, chemical and physical factors.  This is well known to soil scientists and to most of those who work in agriculture.

The future of livestock farming: using long-term datasets to develop measures of sustainability

New partnership between Rothamsted Research and the INIA in Uruguay will explore ways to manage grasslands and livestock more sustainably.

Researchers from Uruguay this week met with colleagues from Rothamsted Research at the Institute’s sites in North Wyke and Harpenden. The visit marks the start of a new partnership between scientists from Rothamsted Research in the UK and the Instituto Nacional de Investigacion Agropecuaria (INIA) in Uruguay.

Leading institutes to showcase bioscience in your field at Cereals 2016

Visit Stand 702 at Cereals 2016 to discover how cutting edge bioscience research is delivering real benefits for agriculture.

Scientists from Rothamsted Research, the Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences (IBERS) and the John Innes Centre (JIC) and will be on hand to showcase the latest in arable farming research. The three research institutes will together display their work to 25,000 arable farmers and agronomists at Stand 702 at the event on the 15th and 16th of June in Chrishall Grange, Cambridgeshire.

Scientists provide native willows for arboretum at Heartwood Forest

Willow breeders at Rothamsted Research source native species from the National Willow Collection to plant at new arboretum.

Scientists from Rothamsted Research have selected nine species of willow, native to Britain, to plant in an arboretum at the nearby Heartwood Forest. Owned by the Woodland Trust, the 350-hectare Heartwood forest includes a ten-hectare arboretum in which local volunteers have planted around 60 native species of trees and shrubs. Identifying species is notoriously hard in willows, and willows sold by plant nurseries are often hybrids rather than pure species, lacking the guarantee of UK origin that the Woodland Trust requires.

Cranfield University and Rothamsted Research establish new partnership

Cranfield University has signed a strategic co-operation agreement with Rothamsted Research, the longest running agricultural research institute in the world.  The agreement builds on the two organisations’ long-standing collaboration over the years and strengthens their working partnership. Under the agreement, Cranfield and Rothamsted will work on several new initiatives to foster science and innovation in key areas of shared expertise, in environment and agrifood.

Good news for biodiversity from the world’s oldest ecological experiment at Rothamsted Research in Harpenden

Rothamsted Research hosts event to celebrate 160th anniversary of the Park Grass Experiment in Harpenden and highlight recent findings.

Running continuously since 1856, Park Grass is the world’s oldest ecological experiment and this year marks its 160th anniversary. To celebrate the anniversary and recent findings from the experiment, Rothamsted Research hosted an event on Tuesday 18th May for the public to discuss the global importance of the Park Grass Experiment and to visit the site.

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